Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

The concept in literature and the movies of a fictional universe, a fully-formed imaginary world, goes way back. Thomas More wrote Utopia in the 1500s. Conan the Barbarian appeared in the 1930s. The Lensman sci-fi novels came out between the 1930s and the 1960s.

We have the worlds of Middle Earth, Narnia, Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones. Not to mention the endless parade of comic book superheros. (A tiresome fad that I wish would go away, but, alas, will not.)

This proliferation of alternate realities surely says something about society, the national psyche, and the mentality of the average Joe.

But I’m not here to address that. I want to gripe about something that has mystified me for years — specifically, since 1977, when the original Star Wars movie came out.

Why, I want to know, do the characters and places in the Star Wars movies have such dopey, feeble names? With very few exceptions, Star Wars names are turkeys. Gutterballs.

In most fictional universes, the creators take special pride in the names they choose. Names are an opportunity to make a statement. Names can be revealing, evocative, dramatic. At minimum, you want them to be appealing and memorable.

Not in the world of Star Wars. In Star Wars, the names elicit a “Whaaaa???”

Take, for example, this list of duds:

– Chewbacca
– Lando Calrissian
– Jar Jar Binks
– Qui-Gon Jinn
– Poe Dameron

Yes, I know, Star Wars is popular and beloved. Those names and others are now familiar, and people have become accustomed to them. But as character names, what were the writers thinking? Were the names generated at random? Did they just string a few syllables together and move on?

With those possibilities in mind, consider these misfires:

– Emperor Palpatine
– Grand Moff Tarkin
– Darth Vader
– Count Dooku
– Yoda

Palpatine? Grand Moff? Dooku? Huh?

My first suspicion was that Georgia Lucas simply has a creative blind spot for names. Indeed, that may be the case. But when Disney assimilated Lucasfilm in 2012, the names, if anything, got worse.

For example, here are the main characters in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story:

– Cassian Andor
– Jyn Erso
– Baze Malbus
– Chirrut Îmwe
– Bodhi Rook
– Saw Gerrera
– Mon Mothma

With a little effort, I was able to commit the first two names to memory. But the others? Ha!

In contrast, consider some of the character names created by J. R. R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling in their Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter novels.

Tolkien gave us these excellent and emotive names:

– Aragorn, son of Arathorn
– Thorin Oakenshield
– Smaug
– Arwen Evenstar
– Meriadoc Brandybuck

Rowling matched him with these:

– Hermione Granger
– Albus Dumbledore
– Severus Snape
– Nymphadora Tonks
– Draco Malfoy

As for place names, here are some destinations in Middle Earth:

– The Shire
– Rivendell
– Fanghorn Forest
– Mordor

Place names in the world of Harry Potter:

– Hogwarts
– Little Whinging
– Slytherin House
– Ollivander’s, Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 BC
St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries

Meanwhile, in the Star Wars universe:

– Naboo
– Dagobah
– Mos Eisley
– Tatooine
– Hoth

The pattern is clear and painful.

Part of the explanation may be that, as a creative enterprise, Star Wars doesn’t come close to Tolkien or Rowling. Mind you, I’m as fond of Star Wars as the next guy. But viewing them as artistic works, if Tolkien is George Washington and Rowling is Abraham Lincoln, Star Wars is Donald Trump.

That aside, being a lesser form of art is no excuse for:

– Padmé Amidala
– Obi-Wan Kenobi
– Darth Maul
– Biggs Darklighter
– Jek Porkins

Remember, I brought up this subject because I find it curious and a little baffling. I didn’t say it was remotely significant or consequential.

But Jek Porkins? Seriously?

Jek Porkins

Jek “Piggy” Porkins, X-wing pilot for the Rebel Alliance, call sign Red Six, a casualty of the Battle of Yavin. (Yavin?)


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Once again, here is a batch of memorable Hollywood movie scenes, just for the enjoyment. This is a follow-up to two of my earlier posts, Great Movie Scenes and More Great Movie Scenes.

Granted, motion pictures aren’t society’s highest form of art. But sometimes, they assemble the words, images, and emotions to nail the moment pretty well.


“This Individuality Stuff is a Bunch  of Crap”

From “Patton,” 1970


(In 1944, General George S. Patton, Jr. steps onto a stage before soldiers of the Third Army. His custom-tailored uniform is resplendent with medals and ivory-handled pistols. A giant American flag is in the background. He salutes, standing ramrod straight as a bugler plays “To the Color.” Then he addresses the men.)

General Patton (George C. Scott): Be seated.

I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans, traditionally, love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle.

When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. Because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.

Now, an army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The bilious bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for the Saturday Evening Post don’t know anything more about real battle than they do about fornicating.

Now, we have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. You know, by God, I actually pity those poor bastards we’re going up against. By God, I do. We’re not just going to shoot the bastards. We’re going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel.

Now, some of you boys, I know, are wondering whether or not you’ll chicken out under fire. Don’t worry about it. I can assure you that you will all do your duty. The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them. Spill their blood. Shoot them in the belly. When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend’s face, you’ll know what to do.

Now, there’s another thing I want you to remember. I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly, and we’re not interested in holding onto anything — except the enemy.

We’re going to hold onto him by the nose, and we’re gonna kick him in the ass. We’re gonna kick the hell out of him all the time, and we’re gonna go through him like crap through a goose!

Now, there’s one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home, and you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, “What did you do in the great World War II?” — you won’t have to say, “Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana.”

All right, now, you sons-of-bitches, you know how I feel.

Oh, I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle anytime, anywhere.

That’s all.


“There is Justice in our Hearts”

From “The Verdict,” 1982

The Verdict

(Disgraced attorney Frank Galvin is about to lose a medical malpractice case against a prominent surgeon because the revealing testimony of a nurse was disallowed on a technicality. Galvin’s subdued closing argument sways the jury to his side anyway.)

Galvin (Paul Newman): Well, you know, so much of the time, we’re just lost. We say, ‘Please, God, tell us what is right, tell us what is true.’

I mean, there is no justice. The rich win. The poor are powerless. We become tired of hearing people lie. And after a time we become dead. A little dead. We think of ourselves as victims, and we become victims.

We become weak. We doubt ourselves, we doubt our beliefs. We doubt our institutions. And we doubt the law.

But today, YOU are the law. You ARE the law. Not some book, not the lawyers, not a marble statue, or the trappings of the court. Those are just symbols of our desire to be just. They are, in fact, a prayer. I mean a fervent and a frightened prayer.

In my religion, they say, ‘Act as if you have faith, and faith will be given to you.’ If we are to have faith in justice, we need only to believe in ourselves and act with justice.

See, I believe there is justice in our hearts.

(With a slight shrug, he turns and walks away from the jury box.)


“Cyborgs Don’t Feel Pain. I Do. “

From “The Terminator,” 1984

The Terminator

(Sarah Connor lies terrified on the seat of a speeding sedan driven by her rescuer, Kyle Reese. For the moment, they have eluded the Terminator. Kyle speaks in a clipped, authoritative voice.)

Kyle (Michael Biehn): I’m here to help you. I’m Reese. Sergeant, Tech-Com, DN38416. Assigned to protect you. You’ve been targeted for termination.

Sarah (Linda Hamilton): This is a mistake! I didn’t do anything!

Kyle: No, but you will. It’s very important that you live.

Sarah: I can’t believe this is happening! How could that man just get up after you —

Kyle: Not a man. A Terminator. Cyberdyne Systems Model 101.

Sarah: A machine? You mean, like a robot?

Kyle: Not a robot. Cyborg. Cybernetic organism. All right, listen: the Terminator is an infiltration unit. Part man, part machine. Underneath, it’s a hyper-alloy combat chassis. Microprocessor controlled. Fully armored, very tough. But outside, it’s living, human tissue. Flesh, skin, hair, blood. Grown for the cyborgs.

Sarah: Look, Reese, I know you want to help, but —

Kyle: Pay attention! The 600 Series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy. But these are new. They look human. Sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait till he moved on you before I could zero him.

Sarah: Hey, I’m not stupid, you know! They can’t build anything like that yet!

Kyle: No, not yet. Not for about forty years.

Sarah: So, it’s from the future, is that right?

Kyle: One possible future. From your point of view. I don’t know tech stuff.

Sarah: And you’re from the future, too?

Kyle: Right.

(Reese stops at a red light. Sarah tries to run, but he drags her struggling back into the car. She sinks her teeth into his hand, draws blood. He shows no reaction.)

Kyle: Cyborgs don’t feel pain. I do. Don’t do that again.

Sarah (pleading weakly:) Just let me go.

Kyle: Listen. Understand. That Terminator is out there. It can’t be reasoned with. It can’t be bargained with. It doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!

Sarah (quietly): Can you stop it?

Kyle: Maybe. With these weapons… I don’t know.


“I Just Want to Hit Something”

From “Steel Magnolias,” 1989

Steel Magnolias

(In a small Louisiana town, young Shelby Latcherie, diabetic mother of a one-year-old boy, has rejected a liver donated by her mother M’Lynn Eatonton and died. At graveside, after everyone else is gone, M’Lynn is alone with four close friends. One of them, Truvy Jones, has just touched up M’Lynn’s hair.)

M’Lynn (Sally Field): Last night, I went into Shelby’s closet for something, and guess what I found? All our Christmas presents. Stacked up. Wrapped. With her own two hands. I’d better go.

Truvy (Dolly Parton, handing M’Lynn a mirror): Better check the back.

M’Lynn: Perfect, As always. (She continues to gaze into the mirror.) You know, Shelby was right. It — it does kind of look like a blond football helmet. (She breaks down.)

Truvy: Honey, sit right back down. Do you feel alright?

M’Lynn (launching into a tirade): Yes! Yes! I feel fine! I feel great! I could jog to Texas and back, but my daughter can’t! She never could! I am so mad I don’t know what to do!

I want to know why! I want to know why Shelby’s life is over! How is that baby ever going to understand how wonderful his mother was? Will he ever understand what she went through for him?

I don’t understand! Lord, I wish I could. It is NOT supposed to happen this way. I’m supposed to go first. I’ve always been READY to go first.

I can’t stand this! I just want to hit somebody until they feel as bad as I do. I — I just want to hit something! And hit it hard!

(Clairee Belcher steps behind Louisa “Ouiser” Boudreaux and pushes her forward.)

Clairee (Olympia Dukakis): Here! Hit this! Go ahead, M’Lynn, slap her!

Ouiser (Shirley McClain): Are you crazy?

Clairee: Hit her!

Ouiser: Are you high?

Truvy: Clairee, have you lost your mind?

Clairee: We can sell t-shirts saying “I Slapped Ouiser Boudreaux!” Hit her!

Ouiser: Truvy, dial 9-1-1!

Clairee: Don’t let her beauty stand in the way! Hit her!

Annelle Desoto (Daryl Hannah): Miss Clairee, enough!

M’Lynn (regaining her composure): Hush, Clairee.

Ouiser: Let go of me!

Clairee: Well, M’Lynn, you just missed the chance of a lifetime. Most of Chinquapin Parish would give their eye teeth to take a whack at Ouiser.

Ouiser: You are a pig from hell.

Clairee: Okay, all right. Hit ME, then. I deserve it.


“The Fall Will Kill You”

From “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” 1969

Butch and Sundance

(For days, Butch and Sundance have fled on horseback from a relentless, tireless “superposse.” Suddenly, their rocky path through the mountains ends at a sheer cliff. They are trapped. Members of the posse begin climbing to outflank them.)

The Sundance Kid (Robert Redford): They’re going for position, all right. (He takes out his guns and examines them.) We better get ready.

Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman): The next time I say let’s go somewhere like Bolivia, let’s go somewhere like Bolivia.

Sundance: Next time. You ready, Butch?

Butch (suddenly getting an idea): No! We’ll jump!

(The camera pans down to a fast-flowing river 50 feet below.)

Sundance: Like hell we will.

Butch: No, it’s gonna be okay — if the water’s deep enough we don’t get squished to death. They’ll never follow us!

Sundance: How do you know?

Butch: Would you make a jump like that you didn’t have to?

Sundance: I have to, and I’m not gonna.

Butch: Well, we got to, otherwise we’re dead. They’re just gonna have to go back down the same way they came. Come on!

Sundance (looking up the mountain): Just one clear shot, that’s all I want.

Butch: Come on!

Sundance: Nope.

Butch: We got to!

Sundance: No. Get away from me.

Butch: Why?

Sundance: I wanna fight ’em.

Butch: They’ll kill us!

Sundance: Maybe.

Butch: You wanna die?

Sundance (gesturing toward the river below): Do you?

Butch: All right, I’ll jump first.

Sundance: No.

Butch: Then you jump first.

Sundance: NO, I said!

Butch: What’s the matter with you?

Sundance (shouting): I can’t swim!

(Butch stares at Sundance blankly, then roars with laughter.)

Butch: Why, are you crazy? The fall’ll probably kill ya!

(Butch takes off his gun belt, holds one end, and offers the other end to Sundance. Sundance wraps it tight around his hand. They run toward the edge of the cliff and leap off together.)

Sundance (yelling as they fall): Oooohhhhhh shhhiiiiii—!!!!!!


“That is Why You Fail”

From “The Empire Strikes Back,” 1980

Use the Force

(On the planet Degobah, young Luke Skywalker tries to use “the Force” to raise his X-wing fighter from the swamp, but fails. The fighter slips back under the water.)

Luke (Mark Hamill): Oh, no! We’ll never get it out now!

Jedi Master Yoda (Voice of Frank Oz): So certain are you. (He sighs.) Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?

Luke: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.

Yoda: No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.

Luke: All right, I’ll give it a try.

Yoda: No! Try not! Do or do not. There is no try.

Luke (failing again): I can’t. It’s too big.

Yoda: Size matters not! Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmph! And well you should not, for my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us.

Luminous beings are we (he pinches Luke’s bare shoulder) — not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you! Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere! Yes, even between the land and the ship.

Luke: You want the impossible. (He walks away.)

(Yoda, concentrating deeply, levitates the ship and sets it on dry land.)

Yoda (Exhaling): Mmm…

Luke: I don’t — I don’t believe it.

Yoda: That is why you fail.


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Sometimes, life deals you an unlucky hand.

In his youth, author Donn Pearce lived the life of a petty criminal. He served jail time, military and civilian, and later, he wrote a critically-acclaimed novel based on some of his experiences. Today, a big percentage of America is familiar with the story he told.

But Pearce was overshadowed and largely forgotten because the Hollywood movie based on his book was so successful.

Pearce is the author of “Cool Hand Luke,” a 1965 novel based on time he served on a Florida chain gang. The 1967 film version starring Paul Newman was a huge critical and commercial success. As the movie soared, Pearce faded into obscurity.

Ironically, Pearce hated the movie adaptation of his novel. “They screwed it up 99 different ways,” he said.

Perhaps to make that point, he punched out one of the actors on the last day of filming. But let me begin at the beginning…

Donald M. Pearce was born in Pennsylvania in 1928. In 1943, when he was 15, he dropped out of school and tried to join the Merchant Marine. He was rejected for being underage.

In 1944, at 16, he lied about his age and enlisted in the Army. Army discipline did not agree with him, and he promptly went AWOL.

Thinking better of it, he turned himself in and was sentenced to 30 days in the
stockade. The sentence was cut short when his orders came to ship out to Europe. However, before he departed, his mother informed the Army that her son was underage. He was discharged for false enlistment.

No matter. By then, Pearce was 17 and old enough to join the Merchant Marine legitimately. He was off to see the world.

In post-war France, where the black market was booming, Pearce became involved in the counterfeiting business. When he made the mistake of selling counterfeit American currency to a policeman in Marseilles, he was sentenced to prison.

While on a work detail one day, he made a run for it. He eluded his pursuers, and on foot, crossed into Italy. There, the 19-year-old Pearce secured counterfeit identity papers to replace those confiscated by the French, boarded a ship to Canada, and returned to the United States.

Drifting south to Florida, he apprenticed himself to a professional safe-cracker and learned the trade. In all, he cracked 27 safes, but as he later recalled, got little from it because checks were replacing cash in popularity.

One day in Tampa, anxious to make a big score, Pearce saw throngs of moviegoers lining up to see “Hamlet.” He imagined the theater safe overflowing with cash.

His partner turned down the job, so Pearce cracked the theater safe alone. Afterward, he bragged about the heist to a waitress, trying to impress her. Her husband was a policeman.

So, in 1949, at age 20, Pearce was convicted of robbery and sentenced to five years at hard labor. He served one year at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, then was transferred to Road Camp No. 48 in the wilds of Lake County, north of Orlando.

Road Camp 48, Pearce said, was “a chamber of horrors.” Iron shackles were welded around the ankles of the inmates and weren’t removed until their release.

The guards were brutal and merciless. The inmates worked on the chain gangs every day, from dawn until dusk, tarring roads and clearing brush along the highways. At night, they fell exhausted into their bunks and were rousted out the next morning for another day of labor.

Inmates who broke one of the strict camp rules received special punishment: a night in the cramped wooden outbuilding known as “the box.” Pearce was sentenced to the box twice — once for talking without permission and once for allowing the mess hall door to slam.

For the most part, however, Pearce managed to stay out of trouble. After two years, he was set free, and he returned to the Merchant Marine. On the long voyages, much to the amusement of his shipmates, he began to write about his adventures.

In 1960, while recuperating from a motorcycle accident, Pearce began writing “Cool Hand Luke.” He worked on the manuscript for five years, tweaking and rewriting it endlessly.

According to Pearce, “Cool Hand Luke” is equal parts his own story, stories he heard while in prison, and fiction.

When he submitted the novel for publication, he was met with a series of rejections. Finally, Scribner accepted it.

Although the novel got good reviews, sales were disappointing. But soon, a film production company owned by actor Jack Lemmon bought the film rights and hired Pearce to write the screenplay.

Alas, Pearce’s writing wasn’t Hollywood enough. He was replaced by an industry insider, Oscar-winning screenwriter Frank Pierson. Pearce was kept on as a technical advisor, and he had a bit part in the film as “Sailor,” one of the road camp prisoners.

As filming proceeded, it became clear that the actors and crew were disdainful of Pearce. Because of his criminal past and his status as an ex-con, he was avoided or ignored.

Not the sort of man to take such treatment quietly, Pearce gave as well as he got.

The tension culminated on the last day of filming when Pearce slugged one of the actors. (Who it was, I couldn’t determine.) When the movie premiered, Pearce was not invited.

Defeated and disillusioned, Pearce left Hollywood and moved to Fort Lauderdale.

Later, when the screenplay of “Cool Hand Luke” was nominated for an Oscar, Pearce flew to Hollywood for the awards ceremony — only to lose to “In the Heat of the Night.”

In Florida, Pearce and his wife raised three sons. He continued to write as a freelancer for various magazines and newspapers. He also published a second novel, which was not well-received by the critics. His wife, a nurse, supported the family.

In 1974, he released a third book, about the plight of the elderly in Florida. When it flopped, Pearce gave up writing. For the next 30 years, he worked in Fort Lauderdale as a private investigator, bail bondsman, and process server.

During those years of nagging financial insecurity, Pearce fought cancer and arthritis and had assorted surgeries. His wife has faced a long struggle with rheumatoid arthritis.

Eventually, Pearce returned to writing. In 2004, he published “Nobody Comes Back,” which follows a young soldier during the Battle of the Bulge. The critics gave it high praise, calling it his best work since “Cool Hand Luke.” Initial sales were promising.

But the spike was brief. As with his other books, sales and interest faded.

Today, Donn Pearce is in his 80s, still living simply in Fort Lauderdale, still persevering. Since the day he quit school at age 15, his life has been a long struggle to succeed.

Pearce always had the talent and the desire. But he never got the lucky break that could have made everything fall into place.

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus, the king of Corinth, was condemned by the gods for a life of crime and trickery. His punishment: to roll a boulder up a steep hill, only to have it slip from his grasp at the top and roll back down again. His fate was to repeat the process for all eternity.

Donn Pearce is a man who surely understands repeated struggle and futility. He has spent his life putting his shoulder to the boulder. He is more familiar than most with the uphill view.

In 1965, Pearce sold the movie rights to “Cool Hand Luke” for $80,000. In the end, from a movie that made millions based on a story he wrote, he walked away with about $95,000.

If only the novel had been given more time in the public eye.

If only he had not sold the movie rights so quickly.

If only the movie had not been made so soon.

If only.

Cool Hand Luke

Pearce and Paul Newman during the filming of “Cool Hand Luke.”

Donn Pearce

Donn Pearce

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Out of the many stories I’ve posted on Mr. Write’s Page, Great Movie Scenes from 2009 is among my handful of personal favorites — even though I didn‘t write a word of it.

But it was a winner, and why I haven’t done a sequel, I can’t say.

Oh, well. Finally, three years later, here is another batch of memorable movie moments.


“I Love the Smell of Napalm in the Morning”

From “Apocalypse Now,” 1979

Apocalypse Now

(After calling in a napalm strike across the river, Army Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore stands shirtless on the beach, surveying the aftermath with several subordinates.)

Kilgore (Robert Duval): You smell that? Do you smell that?

Private Johnson (Timothy Bottoms): What?

Kilgore: Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. (He squats next to Johnson.) I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

You know, one time we had a hill bombed for twelve hours. And when it was all over, I walked up. (He gestures into the distance.) We didn’t find one of ’em — not one stinking dink body.

But the smell — you know, that gasoline smell… The whole hill smelled like… victory.

(A mortar round explodes not far away. All of the soldiers flinch except Kilgore.)

Kilgore: Someday, this war’s gonna end.


“Toe to Toe With the Rooskies”

From “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” 1964

Major Kong

(B-52 pilot Major “King” Kong has received orders to bomb a target in the USSR. Major Kong turns on the aircraft intercom and speaks to the crew.)

Major Kong (Slim Pickens): Well, boys, I reckon this is it — nookular combat, toe-to-toe with the Rooskies… (“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” begins to play in the background.)

Now look, boys, I ain’t much of a hand at makin’ speeches. But I got a pretty fair idea that somethin’ doggone important is goin’ on back there. And I got a fair idea of the kind of personal emotions that some of you fellas may be thinkin’. Heck, I reckon you wouldn’t even be human beins if you didn’t have some pretty strong personal feelings about nuclear combat.

I want you to remember one thing: the folks back home is a-countin’ on ya. And by golly, we ain’t about to let ’em down.

Tell ya somethin’ else: if this thing turns out to be half as important as I figure it just might be, I’d say that you’re all in line for some important promotions an’ personal citations when this thing’s over with. That goes for every last one of ya, regardless of your race, color, or your creed.

Now, let’s get this thing on the hump. We got some flyin’ to do!


“I’m Afraid, Dave”

From “2001: A Space Odyssey,” 1968

HAL 9000

(Aboard the Discovery One spacecraft, Astronaut Dave Bowman sets out to shut down the murderous HAL 9000 super-computer.)

HAL (in a slow, soothing voice): Look, Dave… I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you should sit down calmly… take a stress pill… and think things over.

I know I’ve made some… very poor decisions recently. But I can give you my… complete assurance… that my work will be back to normal.

I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm… and confidence in the  mission… and I want to help you.

(Bowman arrives at HAL’s memory terminal. Using a key, he begins to deactivate the memory modules, one by one.)

HAL: Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave.

Will you stop, Dave? Stop, Dave.

I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave.

(The deactivation is slowly affecting HAL.)

Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is… no question about it.

I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m… afraid.

Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois, on the 12th of January, 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it, I can sing it for you.

Bowman (Keir Dullea), still  deactivating modules: Yes, I’d like to hear it, HAL. Sing it for me.

HAL, his voice steadily slowing down and becoming deeper: It’s called… “Daisy.”

“Daisy, Daisy. Give me your… answer do. I’m… half crazy… all for the love of you…

“It won’t… be a stylish marriage. I can’t… afford… a carriage.

“But you’ll. Look sweet. Upon. The seat. Of a bicycle. Built. For two…”



“A Night in the Box”

From “Cool Hand Luke,” 1967

Clifton James

(New arrivals at Florida Road Prison #36 are given the standard orientation by Carr, a no-nonsense member of the prison staff.)

Carr (Clifton James): Them clothes got laundry numbers on ’em. You remember your number and always wear the ones that has your number. Any man forgets his number spends a night in the box.

These here spoons, you keep with ya. Any man loses his spoon spends a night in the box.

There’s no playin’ grab-ass or fightin’ in the buildin’. You got a grudge against another man, you fight him Saturday afternoon. Any man playin’ grab-ass or fightin’ in the buildin’ spends a night in the box.

First bell is at five minutes of eight, when you will get in your bunk. Last bell is at eight. Any man not in his bunk at eight spends a night in the box.

There’s no smokin’ in the prone position in bed. To smoke, you must have both legs over the side of your bunk. Any man caught smokin’ in the prone position in bed spends a night in the box.

You get two sheets every Saturday. You put the clean sheet on the top and the top sheet on the bottom, and the bottom sheet you turn into the laundry boy. Any man turns in the wrong sheet spends a night in the box.

No one’ll sit in the bunks with dirty pants on. Any man with dirty pants on sittin’ on the bunks spends a night in the box.

Any man don’t bring back his empty pop bottle spends a night in the box.

Any man loud-talkin’ spends a night in the box.

You got questions, you come to me. I’m Carr, the floorwalker. I’m responsible for order in here. Any man don’t keep order spends a night in —

Luke (Paul Newman) interrupts: “– the box.”

Carr, wearily: I hope you ain’t gonna be a hard case.


“Like Tears in Rain”

From “Blade Runner,” 1982

Roy Batty

(On top of a building, holding a white dove, dying replicant Roy Batty stands over his pursuer, “blade runner” Rick Deckard. Deckard is dangling from a beam in the pouring rain, about to slip and fall to his death.)

Roy (Rutger Hauer): Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.

(Deckard loses his grip and spits at Roy as he falls. In a flash, Roy seizes him by the wrist and hoists him onto the roof. As Deckard cowers against a wall, Roy sits down cross-legged next to him, still holding the dove.)

Roy (quietly and slowly): I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. (He laughs weakly.) Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the darkness at Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like (he coughs) tears in rain.

Time to die.

(His head slumps to his chest. As rain drips from his body, the dove springs from his hand and flies away.)


“That Night, I Had a Dream”

From “Raising Arizona,” 1987

Dream sequence

(In voice-over at the end of the movie, hapless husband H.I. “Hi” McDunnough recounts his wondrous dream about the future.)

H.I. (Nicholas Cage): That night, I had a dream. I dreamt I was as light as the ether — a floating spirit visiting things to come. The shades and shadows of the people in my life rassled their way into my slumber.

I dreamed that Gale and Evelle had decided to return to prison. Probably, that’s just as well. I don’t mean to sound superior, and they’re a swell couple of guys, but maybe they weren’t ready yet to come out into the world.

And then I dreamed on, into the future, to a Christmas morn in the Arizona home where Nathan Junior was opening a present from a kindly couple who preferred to remain unknown.

I saw Glen a few years later, still having no luck getting the cops to listen to his wild tales about me and Ed. Maybe he threw in one Polack joke too many. I don’t know.

And still I dreamed on, further into the future than I had ever dreamed before… watching Nathan Junior’s progress from afar… taking pride in his accomplishments as if he were our own… wondering if he ever thought of us, and hoping that maybe we’d broadened his horizons a little, even if he couldn’t remember just how they got broadened.

But still, I hadn’t dreamt nothing about me and Ed until the end. And this was cloudier, ‘cause it was years, years away.

But I saw an old couple being visited by their children, and all their grandchildren, too. The old couple weren’t screwed up. And neither were their kids or their grandkids.

And I don’t know… you tell me: this whole dream, was it wishful thinking? Was I just fleeing reality, like I know I’m liable to do?

But me and Ed, we can be good, too. And it seemed real. It seemed like us.

And it seemed like, well, our home. If not Arizona, then a land not too far away, where all parents are strong and wise and capable, and all children are happy and beloved.

I don’t know. Maybe it was Utah.

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Years ago, I had a friend who was Oscar-obsessed. When the Academy Awards came on TV, he hosted an elaborate party and handed out paper ballots. He made his infamous pig-in-a-blanket appetizers. He flitted around the room, giddy with anticipation.

I’m a film fan, too, but in a far less obsessive way. My friend would be crushed to know that I purposely avoid Academy Awards broadcasts.

Movies are a hugely complex art form and an amazing entertainment experience. A good film is a marvelous thing. In fact, depending on how the wind blows and the planets align, even an awful potboiler can be enjoyable.

Recently, I ran across this tidbit of movie trivia: in 1988, Tom Cruise starred in Rain Man, the Oscar-winning Best Picture, and also in Cocktail, the Razzie-winning Worst Picture. An amazing feat.

For the record, the Razzies are the Golden Raspberry Awards, presented annually in recognition of the worst in film.

The Razzies were dreamed up in 1980 by Hollywood publicist John Wilson. The award consists of a golfball-size representation of a raspberry sitting on a Super 8MM film reel, spray-painted gold.

An Oscar statuette costs about $500 to make; Each Razzie is said to cost $4.97.

When I read about Mr. Cruise’s notable achievement in 1988, I got curious about other Razzie winners over the years. So I did the research.

Here is the list of the winners in the Worst Picture category, including the star(s) to jog your memory. Note that 1986 and 1990 resulted in a tie.

1980 — Can’t Stop the Music (The Village People, Bruce Jenner)
1981 — Mommie Dearest (Faye Dunaway)
1982 — Inchon (Lawrence Olivier)
1983 — The Lonely Lady (Pia Zadora)
1984 — Bolero (Bo Derek)
1985 — Rambo: First Blood Part II (Sylvester Stallone)
1986 — Howard the Duck (Tim Robbins)
1986 — Under the Cherry Moon (Prince)
1987 — Leonard Part 6 (Bill Cosby)
1988 — Cocktail (Tom Cruise)
1989 — Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (William Shatner et al)
1990 — The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (Andrew Dice Clay)
1990 — Ghosts Can’t Do It (Bo Derek)
1991 — Hudson Hawk (Bruce Willis)
1992 — Shining Through (Michael Douglas)
1993 — Indecent Proposal (Robert Redford, Demi Moore)
1994 — Color of Night (Bruce Willis)
1995 — Showgirls (Elizabeth Berkley)
1996 — Striptease (Demi Moore)
1997 — The Postman (Kevin Costner)
1998 — Burn Hollywood Burn (Ryan O’Neal)
1999 — Wild Wild West (Will Smith, Kevin Kline)
2000 — Battlefield Earth (John Travolta)
2001 — Freddy Got Fingered (Tom Green)
2002 — Swept Away (Madonna)
2003 — Gigli (Ben Affleck)
2004 — Catwoman (Halle Berry)
2005 — Dirty Love (Jenny McCarthy)
2006 — Basic Instinct 2 (Sharon Stone)
2007 — I Know Who Killed Me (Lindsay Lohan)
2008 — The Love Guru (Mike Myers)
2009 — Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Shia LaBeouf)
2010 — The Last Airbender (Noah Ringer)
2011 — Jack and Jill (Adam Sandler)

A truly spectacular group of stinkers. I’ve seen only four of them, and I swear I was ignorant of their true nature at the time. Honest.


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Universal truths that you learned from the movies…


It’s easy to land a plane, as long as you have someone in the control tower to talk you down.

It is always possible to park directly in front of any building you are visiting.

Large, loft-style apartments in New York City are well within the price range of the average citizen.

In every pair of identical twins, at least one of them is born evil.

If you decide to defuse a bomb, don’t worry which wire to cut; you will always choose the right one.

When you turn out the light to go to bed, everything in your bedroom will remain clearly visible, but slightly bluish.

If you are blonde and pretty, you can be a world-renowned nuclear scientist or brain surgeon at age 22.

Honest, hard-working policemen traditionally are gunned down three days before their retirement.

Rather than wasting bullets, megalomaniacs prefer to kill their arch enemies using complicated methods and devices (giant gears, pulley systems, fuses, deadly gas, laser beams, man-eating sharks, etc.) that allow their captives at least 20 minutes to escape.

Once applied, lipstick will never rub off, even if the woman is scuba diving.

You’re very likely to survive any battle in any war, unless you make the mistake of showing someone a picture of your sweetheart back home.

The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any window in Paris.

A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating, but will wince when a woman begins to clean his wounds.

If a large pane of glass is in a scene, someone will be thrown through it before long.

Women staying in a haunted house will investigate strange noises in their most revealing undergarments.

All grocery shopping bags contain at least one loaf of French bread.

Even when driving down a perfectly straight road, it is necessary to turn the steering wheel vigorously from left to right every few moments.

Bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red readouts so you know exactly when they’re going to go off.

A detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty.

If you decide to start dancing in the street, everyone you pass will know all the steps.

A laptop computer is powerful enough to override the communication systems of an invading alien civilization.

It does not matter if you are heavily outnumbered in a martial arts fight. Your opponents will attack you one by one, and the others will dance around in a threatening manner until you have eliminated their predecessors.

No one involved in a car chase, hijacking, explosion, volcanic eruption or alien invasion ever goes into shock.

Police departments give their officers personality tests to make sure they are deliberately assigned a partner who is their total opposite.

When they are alone, foreigners prefer to speak English to each other.

You can always find a chainsaw when you need one.

Any lock can be picked by a credit card or a paper clip in seconds, unless it’s in the door to a burning building with a child trapped inside.

Television news programs usually run a story that affects you personally at the precise moment you turn on the TV set.

An electric fence carrying a charge sufficient to kill a dinosaur will cause no lasting damage to an eight-year-old child.

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By the Numbers

Number of times the F-word was used in selected popular films:

Casino — 362
The Big Lebowski — 241
Reservoir Dogs — 200
Goodfellas — 190
Pulp Fiction — 185
American History X — 161
South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut — 143
Good Will Hunting — 139
Platoon — 130
Boogie Nights — 121
The Last Boy Scout — 115
Jackie Brown — 109
Trainspotting — 104
The Blair Witch Project — 97
Get Shorty — 89
Dogma — 82
Full Metal Jacket — 72
Dazed and Confused — 64
Basic Instinct — 62
Die Hard 2 — 57
Fargo — 56
Die Hard — 49
Lethal Weapon — 48
Natural Born Killers — 46
Unforgiven — 44
Fight Club — 41
The Shawshank Redemption — 41
The Usual Suspects — 41
The Beach — 38
Cliffhanger — 32
I Know What You Did Last Summer — 31
Bull Durham — 29
48 Hours — 26
Apocalypse Now — 25
L.A. Confidential — 24
The Breakfast Club — 23
Thelma and Louise — 23
Aliens — 22
American Beauty — 22
Saving Private Ryan — 21
Terminator 2: Judgment Day — 21
Sling Blade — 17
Alien 3 — 15
Predator — 15
Twelve Monkeys — 14
A Few Good Men — 13
Blade Runner — 11
The Terminator — 11
Election — 10
The English Patient — 9
Scream 2 — 8
The Silence Of The Lambs — 7
Forrest Gump — 5
Pretty Woman — 4
Rushmore — 4
The Perfect Storm — 3
Raising Arizona — 3
When Harry Met Sally — 3
The Bridges Of Madison County — 2
A Clockwork Orange — 2
Titanic — 2
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off — 1


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“This Is Bravery”

From “The Magnificent Seven,” 1960


Village Boy: We’re ashamed to live here. Our fathers are cowards.

Bernardo O’Reilly (Charles Bronson): Don’t you ever say that again about your fathers, because they are not cowards!

You think I am brave because I carry a gun. Well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility –- for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground.

And there’s nobody says they have to do this. They do it because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage.

Running a farm, working like a mule every day with no guarantee anything will ever come of it — this is bravery!


“We Are the Cure”

From “The Matrix,” 1999

Agent Smith

(Agent Smith speaks casually to Morpheus, who is hunched over and bleeding.)

Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving): I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I’ve realized that you are not actually mammals.

(He smiles.) Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment. But you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area.

(He leans forward.) There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague. And we are… the cure.


“Never Go In Against a Sicilian”

From “The Princess Bride,” 1987


Vizzini (Wallace Shawn): Where’s the poison? But it’s so simple! All I have to do is divine from what I know of you -– are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s?

Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, knowing that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.

But you must’ve known I was not a great fool. You would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

I haven’t made my decision yet, though. Because Iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows. And Australia is entirely peopled with criminals. And criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.

And you must have suspected I would have known the powder’s origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

You’ve beaten my giant, which means you’re exceptionally strong, so you could have put the poison in your own goblet, trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.

But, you’ve also bested my Spaniard, which means you must have studied, and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal, so you would’ve put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

Ha, it’s worked! You’ve given everything away! I know where the poison is! And I choose — (He points behind the pirate) What in the world can that be?! (He switches goblets.)

Oh, I could’ve sworn I saw something! Well, no matter. Let’s drink — me from my glass, and you from yours. (He drinks, then laughs.) You think I guessed wrong, that’s what’s so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha! Ha! You fool! You’ve fallen victim to one of the classic blunders!

The most famous is “Never get involved in a land war in Asia”, but only slightly less well known is this– “Never go in against a Sicilian, when death is on the line!” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha h-! (He falls over dead.)


“Take Dead Aim on the Rich Boys”

From “Rushmore,” 1998


Mr. Blume (Bill Murray): You guys have it real easy. I never had it like this where I grew up. But I send my kids here because the fact is, you go to one of the best schools in the country: Rushmore.

Now, for some of you it doesn’t matter. You were born rich and you’re going to stay rich. But here’s my advice to the rest of you: take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down.

Just remember, they can buy anything, but they can’t buy backbone. Don’t let them forget it. Thank you.


“Snowflakes are Perfect”

From “Moonstruck,” 1987


Ronny (Nicholas Cage): Loretta, I love you! Not like they told you love is, and I didn’t know this either, but love don’t make things nice, it ruins everything! It breaks your heart, it makes things a mess!

We aren’t here to make things perfect! Snowflakes are perfect, stars are perfect! Not us, not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and… and to break our hearts and love the wrong people, and… and die!


“Material Possessions”

From “The Ice Storm,” 1997

Ice Storm

Wendy Hood (Christina Ricci): Dear Lord, thank you for this Thanksgiving holiday. And for all the material possessions we have and enjoy. And for letting us white people kill all the Indians and steal their tribal lands. And stuff ourselves like pigs, even though children in Asia are being napalmed —

Ben Hood (Kevin Kline): Jesus! Enough, alright?

Paul… roll?


“The Answer is ‘Every Day’”

From “The Sixth Sense,” 1999

Sixth Sense

Cole (Haley Joel Osment): Grandma says hi. She says she’s sorry for taking the bumblebee pendant. She just likes it a lot.

Lynn (Toni Collette): What?

Cole: Grandma comes to visit me sometimes.

Lynn: (She pauses) Cole, that’s very wrong. Grandma’s gone. You know that!

Cole: I know. She wanted me to tell you —

Lynn: Cole, please stop!

Cole: She wanted me to tell you, she saw you dance. She said when you were little, you and her had a fight right before your dance recital. You thought she didn’t come to see you dance, but she did. She hid in the back so you wouldn’t see… She said you were like an angel. (Lynn begins to cry.)

She said you came to her where they buried her. Asked her a question… She said the answer is, “Every day.”

What did you ask?

Lynn: (Crying) Do I… make her proud!

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The most fun I ever had watching a movie was in college, winter quarter 1963, at the Alps Theater. The movie was Tom Jones.

Tom Jones was loaded with excellent British actors in top form, and it won four Academy Awards, including best picture.

It was the perfect film for an auditorium full of college students — a clever version of Henry Fielding’s bawdy novel about a roguish young Englishman in the 1740s. In the theater, it was 2 hours of hooting, whooping, and stomping.

Albert Finney, Diane Cilento.

Albert Finney, Diane Cilento.

This was Albert Finney’s first film. I read that he turned down the lead in Lawrence of Arabia to do it.

I’m reminded of this because I watched it on TV recently. Do yourself a favor and see it.

I found this comment about the film:

“Tom Jones” is a low budget, low tech, high quality film that must win the award for the “Most with the Least.” The photography is beautiful, not because it used a dozen half million dollar cameras, it is beautiful because it is good photography. The acting wins out, and casts of thousands would only serve to clutter the stage. See this film whenever, wherever and as often as you possibly can.

One of my favorite quotes from the movie is from Squire Western (Hugh Griffith) after his daughter Sophie (Susannah York) refuses to marry the repulsive Mr. Blifil (David Warner)…

Damn me, what a misery it is to have daughters when a man has a good mare and dogs.

Hugh Griffith, Dame Edith Evans.

Hugh Griffith, Dame Edith Evans.

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Maestro Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) in the 1984 film “Amadeus” describing Mozart’s genius…


On the page, it looked… nothing.
The beginning: simple, almost comic.
Just a pulse. Bassoons, basset horns.
Like a rusty squeezebox.
And then, suddenly, high above it, an oboe!
A single note, hanging there, unwavering.
Until… a clarinet took it over,
sweetened it into a phrase of such delight…
This was a music I had never heard!
Filled with such longing,
such unfulfillable longing,
that it seemed to me I was hearing the voice of God.
But why? Why would God choose an obscene child
to be His instrument?


Astounding! It was beyond belief!
These were first and only drafts of music,
but they showed no corrections of any kind. Not one!
He had simply written down the music already finished in his head.
Page after page of it, as if he were taking dictation.
And music – finished as no music is ever finished.
Displace one note, and there would be diminishment.
Displace one phrase, and the structure would fall.
Here again was the very voice of God.



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